Plastics industry consultant AMI has just published the 10th edition of its Directory of Polyethylene Film Extruders in Europe. The new edition lists a 100 new production sites, a sign that the industry is finally recovering from the impact of the global financial crisis of 2008.
The recession of 2008-2009 saw polyethylene film production drop by 10 percent and although output is still some half a million tonnes below that achieved at the peak of the market in 2007, demand for film has continued to make a slow, steady recovery since then.
To some extent it can be misleading to talk solely about tonnages because one of the success stories of the polyethylene film industry has been its ability to downgauge and reduce material weight through the use of innovative linear and metallocene grade material which allow extruders to create thinner, yet stronger films. In 2013, for the first time ever, the consumption of linear and metallocene grades by film extruders exceeded the usage of conventional LDPE grades: And this trend is here to stay, with AMI forecasting that the use of metallocenes materials in film extrusion will grow at a rate of 3 or 4 percentage points above that for the industry as a whole as more and more extruders develop products using them.
Film extruders have been steadily increasing their use of linear and metallocene resins to adapt to consumer demands, which helps to explain the good growth rates in stretch and shrink film production. Shrink and stretch films, used to protect goods in transit, each accounted for 1 million tonnes of polyethylene film production in 2013. AMI's directory shows the importance of this sector with 52 percent of plants involved in the production of stretch film or shrink film for collation or pallet wrapping. This trend is reflected across Europe with Germany taking the lead, where 61 percent of film extrusion sites are producing shrink and stretch films. The leading producer of stretch film, the Italian group Manuli Stretch, operates one of the largest plants for stretch film in Europe in Schkopau, Germany.
Despite the emergence of several new players in this edition of AMI's directory, the polyethylene film market remains highly competitive and while the number of sites may have grown, it is not necessarily reflected in the number of companies involved. Consolidation and restructuring continues to be a major feature of the film extrusion market. The creation of the Coveris Group, bringing together the PE film operations of Britton Group, Veriplast, Unterland and Kobusch; the acquisition of Nordenia by the Mondi Group; RKW's takeover of Hyplast, are all evidence of this.
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